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Zimmermann hopeful biceps cramp isn’t serious

Jul 12, 2014, 12:00 AM EDT

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Updated at 12:00 a.m.

PHILADELPHIA — Jordan Zimmermann has made 132 starts in the big leagues, several of them as a rookie with a barking elbow that needed Tommy John surgery, but never before had he stood on the mound after throwing a pitch and motioned to the Nationals dugout that he needed to come out of a game.

So when that scene played out Friday night during the fourth inning of what would become a 6-2 loss to the Phillies, it was perfectly appropriate for anybody employed by or otherwise associated with the Nationals to drop everything for a moment and fear the worst.

By night’s end, when it was disclosed Zimmermann had suffered from cramping in his right biceps, there were more sighs of relief than calls for panic. But until the All-Star right-hander gets an MRI on Saturday to determine the full extent of the injury, no one will know for sure.

Zimmermann, for his part, was confident this was purely a muscular issue, nothing like the elbow injury he experienced five years ago.

“When I had the elbow problems, I knew something wasn’t right the whole time and just kept trying to pitch through it,” he said. “This, I don’t think it’s anything major, to be honest with you. It’s a little cramping, and it just felt really tight. So I didn’t want to push it.”

Zimmermann said he began feeling the cramping sensation in his biceps during the third inning. It wasn’t affecting his velocity, and though he had given up four runs to the Phillies, he thought he could pitch through the discomfort.

But the pain worsened in the bottom of the fourth, and after throwing a 1-2 slider to catcher Cameron Rupp, Zimmermann realized what needed to be done. He motioned to the Nationals’ dugout, and when manager Matt Williams, pitching coach Steve McCatty and head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz arrived, he told them he should probably come out of the game.

“The inning before, I came out and I could feel it a little bit,” he said. “And when I went back out there, it was gradually getting worse and worse every pitch. I thought I could maybe get a couple more innings out of it before it got too bad. But it got pretty bad, so I called them out and told them what the deal was and they got me out of there. Hopefully the MRI comes back good and we’ll go from there.”

The Nationals were cautiously optimistic afterward that their rotation stalwart wasn’t seriously hurt, based on the location of the injury.

“It’s always a concern when you’ve got to take somebody out of the game because they have an issue,” Williams said. “We’ll get more results tomorrow, but the fact that it’s in the belly of the muscle is a better spot than anywhere else.”

This much is certain: Zimmermann won’t be pitching for the NL on Tuesday in Minneapolis, the second consecutive season he won’t be able to appear in the All-Star Game due to injury. (He sat out last summer’s game due to a lingering neck issue, though he never missed a start for the Nationals.)

“Obviously you want to go over there, and I had all the plans made up and everything,” he said. “I want to pitch in front of my family (from nearby Auburndale, Wisc.). Hopefully everything’s fine. That’s not the main problem right now. It’s getting healthy. Hopefully there will be another one down the road.”

Whether Zimmermann still makes the trip to Minnesota, or whether another Nationals player will be named an All-Star replacement remains to be seen. Williams plans to speak to NL manager Mike Matheny about the options.

Of more significance to the Nationals is Zimmermann’s long-term prognosis. If the injury isn’t deemed serious, he could still get an extended break and not be needed to pitch again until July 22 at Colorado. If a stint on the disabled list is required, he would miss more time, and that’s when the Nationals could be in trouble.

“If he can’t pitch for awhile, it’s a big deal,” said Craig Stammen, who replaced Zimmermann as an emergency reliever, just as he did four years ago when Stephen Strasburg tore his elbow ligament in this same ballpark. “He’s been our most consistent [starter]. He’s our All-Star. We’ve got guys that hopefully would be able to come and up replace him and do just as good of a job.”

Zimmermann had been on a dominant stretch over the last five weeks, posting a 1.26 ERA over his previous seven starts. But he was roughed up by the Phillies in this game, surrendering three straight hits in the second inning, then three straight hits in the third inning, including a 2-run homer to Jimmy Rollins.

“He was throwing good,” catcher Wilson Ramos said. “They were good pitches. That happens. Nobody’s perfect. For me, he was throwing good. But he felt something.”

Zimmermann has already overcome one major injury in his career, undergoing Tommy John surgery as a rookie in 2009. He returned a year later and has been healthy, durable and dominant since, going 45-32 with a 3.07 ERA in 108 starts over the last four seasons.

Now he and the Nationals will simply have to wait for Saturday’s MRI, hoping the test confirms their suspicions that this isn’t cause for long-term concern.

“The shoulder feels fine. Elbow feels great,” he said. “They did all the tests and everything was good, everything was strong. I’m not too worried. I just think the biceps [is] a little ticked off right now. Hopefully a couple days off and it should be better.”

  1. rayvil01 - Jul 11, 2014 at 8:35 PM

    Oh my goodness.

    Reply Report comment
  2. Joe Seamhead - Jul 11, 2014 at 8:36 PM

    So now we have no All Star representative?

    Reply Report comment
    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 11, 2014 at 8:37 PM

      Yep.

      Reply Report comment
      • knoxvillenat - Jul 11, 2014 at 8:40 PM

        Gives all of them four days or rest. Not the worse thing that could happen.

    • Joe Seamhead - Jul 11, 2014 at 8:37 PM

      Not that that matters in the scope of things.

      Reply Report comment
  3. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 11, 2014 at 8:37 PM

    Prayers for JZim.

    Reply Report comment
    • Joe Seamhead - Jul 11, 2014 at 8:38 PM

      Yep

      Reply Report comment
      • coop202 - Jul 11, 2014 at 8:54 PM

        Could care less about Allstars… Please no tj type injury

  4. unkyd59 - Jul 11, 2014 at 8:55 PM

    oboy….. Prayers for healing and Peace, for JZ

    Reply Report comment
  5. janebeard - Jul 11, 2014 at 8:57 PM

    I think we have to send someone, don’t we? A bad way to become an Allstar. I hope it’s just some inflammation, some nerve thing. Anybody got a bead on what AJ Cole is up to ? I guess we won’t call anyone up for a week or so…

    Reply Report comment
  6. Mrsb loves the Nats - Jul 11, 2014 at 8:57 PM

    Hope Jordan is okay…. Totally fine about him missing the AS game too….

    So is this where everyone is now? Gosh, I was thinking I was by myself tonight….

    Reply Report comment
  7. senators69 - Jul 11, 2014 at 9:03 PM

    Mark — come-on man — THIS IS IMPORTANT!
    WHAT’S UP WITH JZIMM???
    GOTTA FIND OUT!
    PULL SOME STRINGS!

    Reply Report comment
  8. scnatsfan - Jul 11, 2014 at 9:14 PM

    So ends the season

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  9. Mrsb loves the Nats - Jul 11, 2014 at 10:09 PM

    Jordan Zimmermann left tonight’s game with a right bicep cramp, per Nats Manager Matt Williams. Expected to get a precautionary MRI tmrw.

    Reply Report comment
  10. Drew - Jul 12, 2014 at 12:16 AM

    Look on the bright side: On free Slurpee day, Bryce Harper pulled within 711 homers of Henry Aaron.

    Reply Report comment
  11. natsfan24 - Jul 12, 2014 at 8:20 AM

    JZimm had an All Star Break cramp.

    Reply Report comment
  12. Faraz Shaikh - Jul 12, 2014 at 8:25 AM

    Good luck JZ. hopefully it is nothing serious.

    Reply Report comment
  13. rayvil01 - Jul 12, 2014 at 8:32 AM

    Another MRI to sweat out. Stunning how this team went from fully healthy to at least bumped-and-bruised in a hurry.

    Reply Report comment
  14. Eric - Jul 12, 2014 at 8:37 AM

    Hope he’s right about the cramp…sounds like the worst case is a severe biceps strain, which is nothing to sneeze at.

    Reply Report comment
    • Faraz Shaikh - Jul 12, 2014 at 9:37 AM

      we have the worst luck with injuries. we just got everyone back together.

      i hope it doesn’t come to this but what kind of replacement we can find on trade market?

      Reply Report comment
      • Eric - Jul 12, 2014 at 10:56 AM

        Not sure, especially when you consider ROI on a market acquisition vs ROI on pitchers in our system…

  15. Theophilus T.S. - Jul 12, 2014 at 9:31 AM

    Assume he ends up OK, not on DL. Pitching Tuesday in AS game in four days would not have been ideal. Fister, on the other hand, could pitch. But my preferred substitute would be Storen, who could use a bit of work — acouple of hitters — in the middle of three days off. All of the position players need the rest.

    Someone on WaPo offered that biceps symptoms are harbingers of elbow problems. Anyone know the explanation for that?

    Reply Report comment
  16. Mrsb loves the Nats - Jul 12, 2014 at 9:31 AM

    Yeah, Jordan… I hope it’s not to serious too.

    Reply Report comment
  17. Theophilus T.S. - Jul 12, 2014 at 9:32 AM

    I have no idea how my comment got dropped in with comments from thirteen hours ago.

    Reply Report comment
  18. micksback1 - Jul 12, 2014 at 10:12 AM

    first off, if its a bicep strain we are looking at worst case about 3 weeks which really means 2 weeks due to break.Bicep strain is similar to a hamstring pull. However, if there is a tear with he tissue that links bicep muscle to shoulder, we are looking at 6 weeks.

    Even if Roark holds his own, who is 5 starter? Please not taylor Jordan. My view would be either Det spots starts or Rizzo makes a move. I think JZim is back this month.

    last night, look, Stammen is terrible and I hope to hell he is not ever seen in post season. Bryce, hmmm of course the homer was nice, but I gotta tell you, this swinging on first pitch is crap!!!! He really could have shown his crtics something if he had come through with men on 2nd and 3rd.I ma still not sold on him ever being a dominate player, sorry.

    Reply Report comment
    • Eric - Jul 12, 2014 at 10:30 AM

      My understanding is that strain *is* a tear, grade 1 – 3. 1 = a few muscle fibers torn, 2 = a lot of muscle fibers torn, and 3 = a complete tear requiring surgery.

      Reply Report comment
  19. dcwx61 - Jul 12, 2014 at 10:16 AM

    FP said the Nats swing ay and miss alot. Is this really true relative to the rest of the league. Is there a stat that tracks swing and miss rate ? My eye says yes they do, but my eye is more focused on the nats players than the other team, therefore, their negatives are subjectively inflated.

    Reply Report comment
    • dcwx61 - Jul 12, 2014 at 10:19 AM

      well there are a lot of stats. If onliy we spent this much effort on trying to help the poor, end world hunger, stop global warming….but there’s no money in those.

      Plate Discipline (O-Swing%, Z-Swing%, etc.)

      Plate Discipline statistics tell us a wide number of things about pitchers: how effective they are at attacking the zone, how often they get hitters to chase on pitches (both inside and outside the zone), how often they throw a first-pitch strike, etc. There are a wide number of these stats:

      O-Swing%: The percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone.
      Z-Swing%: The percentage of pitches a batter swings at inside the strike zone.
      Swing%: The overall percentage of pitches a batter swings at.
      O-Contact%: The percentage of pitches a batter makes contact with outside the strike zone when swinging the bat.
      Z-Contact%: The percentage of pitches a batter makes contact with inside the strike zone when swinging the bat.
      Contact%: The overall percentage of a batter makes contact with when swinging the bat.
      Zone%: The overall percentage of pitches a batter sees inside the strike zone.
      F-Strike% – The percentage of first pitch strikes.
      SwStr%: The percentage of total pitches a batter swings and misses on.

      Reply Report comment
      • micksback1 - Jul 12, 2014 at 10:24 AM

        +1

      • dcwx61 - Jul 12, 2014 at 10:31 AM

        Nat’s contact percent is 16th…about avg….Oakland 4th and Braves amongst the worst (29th)

  20. micksback1 - Jul 12, 2014 at 10:51 AM

    take away Bryce’s homer, his other at bats were just terrible, swinging at first pitch means a hitter is clueless. I am not suggesting that one can’t swing at the first pitch, but every at bat?

    what is comical is how FP and Bobby C tries to sugar coat Bryce’s failures with a stupid 107 mph graph of homer run speed, seriously??? So what, I do not deny Bryce has power, but he does nothing with it when it counts.

    Reply Report comment
    • scmargenau - Jul 12, 2014 at 11:51 AM

      Harper now has 115 at bats with 1 HR and 10 RBI. That projects to about 5 HR and 50 RBI for a full season. #fail

      Reply Report comment
  21. NatsLady - Jul 12, 2014 at 11:47 AM
    Reply Report comment
    • scmargenau - Jul 12, 2014 at 11:53 AM

      Hmm. I prefer our guys rest.last thing
      We need is Rendon twisting an ankle. He’s our brightest spot.

      Reply Report comment
    • Faraz Shaikh - Jul 12, 2014 at 11:56 AM

      If he doesn’t choose from Nats, you know our guys will hold a grudge no doubt.

      Reply Report comment
  22. letswin3 - Jul 12, 2014 at 12:09 PM

    Treinen, if needed. Let’s hope he’s not needed.

    Reply Report comment
  23. Jeff - Jul 12, 2014 at 2:18 PM

    Chicago voted in Rizzo
    Where were all the red Nat nation
    Voters??!

    Reply Report comment
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